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'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, December 15th, 2013

December 15, 2013
Guest: Shannon Watts, Jonathan Metzl, Cristina Beltran, Ron Christie, Igor
Volsky, Aurora Zepeda, Jennifer Jones Austin, Stacey Palmer, Matt Flannery,
Nikki Giovanni, Ron Christie; Kristina Beltran; Igor Volsky; Shannon Watts;
Jonathan Metzel; Kyndra Simmons; Rebecca Ruiz

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This week, believe it or not, we
learned something very, very important. House speaker John Boehner can
display an emotion that is different from the one we`ve become accustomed
to seeing him display, a lot.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I`ve spent my whole life
chasing the American dream. I put myself through school, working every
rotten job there was.


HARRIS-PERRY: Instead of heartstring-pulling, tear-shedding John Boehner,
we got to meet -- angry John Boehner. Oh, yes, you all! Speaker Boehner
reached his boiling point on Wednesday and let all his feelings be known
about conservative interest groups who are criticizing the newly minted
budget deal and trying to wield their influence to undermine it. And the
speaker did not mince his words.


BOEHNER: Frankly, I just think that they`ve lost all credibility. You
know, they pushed us into this fight to defund Obamacare and to shut down
the government. Most of you know, my members know, that wasn`t exactly the
strategy that I had in mind. But if you`ll recall, the day before the
government reopened, one of the people at one of these groups stood up and
said, well, we never really thought it would work. Are you kidding me?!


HARRIS-PERRY: Boehner took it back to Obamacare. And when asked by
MSNBC`s own Kelly O`Donnell if he was enjoying the chance to speak his
mind, Mr. Boehner let it all hang out.


BOEHNER: It is just that, you know, it just comes to a point when some
people step over the line. You know, when you criticize something and you
have no idea what you`re criticizing, it undermines your credibility.


HARRIS-PERRY: I am not exactly sure what is going on with the raging
Boehner this week, but it seems that he has had enough of ideological
interest groups, setting the direction of public policy and political
affairs. Maybe the speaker is prepared to usher in a new era of compromise
and accomplishment in our nation`s capitol.

OK, probably maybe not. But let`s go back for a moment and try to
understand why. Why speaker Boehner was so ticked off.

On Tuesday, Republican congressman Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty
Murray held a news conference to introduce the budget act of 2013, after
weeks of negotiation. And the deal is far from perfect, as there is no
extension of unemployment insurance, among other things, but the deal isn`t
an actual deal. And it won bipartisan support in an otherwise divided

And regardless of that support, the proverbial you know what hit the fan,
because no everyone was happy about the compromises, especially
conservative interest groups. Take for example, the CATO Institute think
tank, which published a piece with the title, "the budget deal is a huge
Republican cave-in." Now, it can be the president and CEO of Freedom Works
they deal another budget surrender. And the club for growth announced that
they flat-out oppose Ryan and Murray`s budget proposal.

Mike Needham, the CEO of Heritage Action for America wrote this in a op-ed.
The budget agreement struck by Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray is a step

So when speaker Boehner lashed out on these conservative groups on
Wednesday, they did not retreat quietly into the corner who not at all.
Attacks included this one from the tea part patriots, speaker Boehner
thinks outside groups are the problem, hitting your colleagues against
their constituents is how you lose credibility with your conference. Not
upholding conservative principles is how you lose credibility with the
voters who will find someone else if you are not willing to do your job.

And check out what Heritage Action for America`s CEO, Michael Needham, had
to say about Boehner`s remarks when he appeared on MSNBC`s the daily
rundown with Chuck Todd on Friday.


Washington is that the speaker is trying to turn this into a boring fight
between outside groups and himself so that we`re not having a policy debate
about whether or not this is a good deal.


HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I mean, maybe budgets should be boring. But, look,
what was more telling in Chuck Todd`s interview with Needham is when he
asked this.


you`re part of the problem? That the interest groups have too much power?

NEEDHAM: No. I don`t think that the American people -- interest groups
don`t have power. Interest groups have the ability I said a lot of people

TODD: You have money and you`re making a lot of money.

NEEDHAM: I think Chuck, if you remember ten years ago when the music
industry was forced to do peer-to-peer file sharing, my tune is coming on
board. All of the establishment companies in the music industry were
furious on this. They said this is terrible. You`re selling your music
directly to our customers. It`s our job to tell our customers --

TODD: You`re the Napster of politics?

NEEDHAM: I think we`re the iTunes of politics, but the establishment is
very upset with the notion that there are people that are having
conversations with their voters and I think that`s good for democracy.


HARRIS-PERRY: No, they`re the iTunes of politics. I wonder if Beyonce
called before she dropped that album. Listen, that is a really interesting
analogy. But may also be why things came to a head between Speaker Boehner
and the ultraconservative interest groups this week. These groups may see
themselves as the upstart, holding the entrenched Republican interests in
government accountable. But speaker Boehner seemed to think that these
outsiders should get out of his political business. One thing I know for
sure, it is getting darn interesting on that side of the aisle.

At the table, Angela Rye, political strategist and principle of impact
strategies, Igor Volsky, with managing editor at,
Kristina Beltran, associate professor to social and culture analysis at
NYU, and Ron Christie, a contributing columnist at "the Daily Beast" and a
former special assistant to president George W. Bush.

Igor, let me ask you this, is this the end of speaker Boehner`s speakership
or the beginning?

beginning. You know, this was kind of a long time coming. You saw in 2010
when this new class was elected, Boehner very frustrated on issues like the
debt ceiling, all of the budget fights. He tried to make a deal with the
president, with the Democrats. It didn`t go anywhere.
mean, issue after issue, the farm bill, comprehensive immigration reform,
he tries to do something, they pull back. And so now, it all kind of
boiled over out into the open.

You know, I think at the end of the day though, this is about politics.
Republicans right now see Obamacare as the golden goose for the 2014


VOLSKY: Again. They think, again, yes. And so, anything that distracts
from that is a problem. That`s why he`s saying, guys, let`s do Obamacare
and then we win elections then we can do what you want.

HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So, part of what I find fascinating, Ron, here and I
really, legitimately mean I find this interesting like I can`t quite figure
it out. We spent a lot of this show yesterday complaining from the left
about the budget deal. About unemployment insurance, and basically saying,
man, this is once again a massive democratic cave.

How can it possibly be that the left sees this as a massive democratic cave
and that the right sees this as a massive Republican cave at the same time?

this is about the art of the deal. I think that the Democrats wanted
unemployment extensions, they didn`t get it. Republicans wanted more
deficit reduction, they wanted entitlement reform, they didn`t get it. To
me, the fact that these both of these factions didn`t get what they wanted,
maybe that means that we`re actually on to something good here. But I want
to pick up on what Igor`s was saying.

HARRIS-PERRY: I promise I`ll let you, but I don`t want to lose that point.
So, you`re suggesting that in fact, maybe in a more normal politics,
there`s not a declaration of the great win and the great loss, but everyone
losing a great deal?

CHRISTIE: I think in the last couple of years, it`s either been, you have
to win and I have to lose. And I think if this case, we found that both
sides had to give a little, both sides got a little of what they wanted,
which is maybe the art of compromise. But I think here`s a guy, I`ve known
John Boehner for 22 years. And the one thing I could say about him, I mean,
you showed the clip of him crying, the person to do that. The John Boehner
that you saw in these clips of him being upset and him wanting to say,
enough is enough, enough is enough, this is ridiculous. He has about 30 or
40 members of the house who want to vote no on everything that`s out there.
Boehner is a deal maker. He is an initiator. He wants to get things done.
He wants to find a way to work the president and he`s been stunning (ph)
and I say good for him.

HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so I want to listen to Paul Ryan talking about
that Boehner that you`re describing there for just a moment. He was on
"Meet the Press" this morning. I would like to listen to what Ryan had to


has kind of got his Irish up. He was frustrated that these groups came out
in opposition to our budget agreement before we reached a budget agreement.
I was frustrated too, but I think these are very important elements of our
conservative family. I would prefer to keep those conversations within the
family and I think he was basically voicing his frustration with their
opposition before we had reached on --.


HARRIS-PERRY: So John got his Irish up and apparently Republican family is
an abusive one. But, I mean, what do you make of Ryan now trying to kind
of smooth over this fight?

ANGELA RYE, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Well, if only this budget impacted just
conservatives then perhaps they could keep it in the family. The problem
with that argument is that the larger American family that`s been impacted.
So, yes, I do think speaker Boehner from all that I`ve heard from members
that served with him before this particular term, he`s a dealmaker. This
is a very frustrating proposition and a zero sum game that we`ve seen far
too much.

You mentioned that, you know, both sides have to lose, but I would have to
argue that Democrats or the more progressive side lost a lot. I mean, this
deal is much closer to the Republican budget agreement than it was
President Obama`s.

HARRIS-PERRY: And so, but then, I guess, part of what I`m wondering,
because I am compelled in certain ways by your argument, Ron, that in fact,
we should be imagining a new normal when there isn`t this kind of zero sum
game. And where as much as it is fun to play this, you know, the crying
Boehner, that you know, we would have a respect for the speaker of the
house being table to get legislation passed, just as we would expect
respect for the president of the United States, being able to be the
president, but it does feel to me, I mean, he made this claim about outside
groups, as though it isn`t the politics happening among our elected
officials that is relevant, but this pressure of politics coming from the

is not really about the Republican Party itself, as opposed to that it`s
sort of over in the separate space. I mean, I think that fundamentally,
what`s really interesting in a couple of ways that the idea that just a bad
deal is a compromise is hard. Because, I mean, I think there`s something
else about the fact that Democrats are just so always half-loaf (ph). We
are so used to like, a crumb. Well, it`s a crumb! You know, and the
Republican Party is like, you know, they have a sort of a kind of all-in,
we better get everything or we feel like we`ve been betrayed. And so, the
logics are so different.

But the other thing that strikes me, how low has the bar got for governing,
right? Like basically, the government is not shock. The GOP has basic
motor skills, right? The GOP can like they`re not putting like spaghetti
on their pans, and you know, juice on their heads. They can chew food and
use a fork. They can -- we can pass a bill, you know, and we can pass a
budget. Like this is now kind of a miracle of governing. We`re so excited
by Boehner`s newfound leadership and it is like really --.

HARRIS-PERRY: I will say, my daughter is 11 and is doing American history
this year in her class. And she had to make a board game of how a bill
becomes a law. And we played it, the three of us together, my husband, my
daughter, and I. And in nearly an hour of playing, we could never actually
get a bill all the way through. And I was like, my God, this is the 113th

Stay right there. We`ve got more on this.

Up next, yet another Republican trying to eat his party`s own.


HARRIS-PERRY: Just how conservative does an establishment Republican
senator have to be these days in order to keep his job? Well if you are
Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, who last year ranked as the number
two most conservative senator by "National Journal," you may think you`re
doing just fine, but not so fast, Senator, because in the eyes of the tea
party, you and a number of your colleagues just aren`t conservative enough.
And now face primary challenges that threaten to derail the Republican
effort to take back the Senate.

While Senator Cornyn currently enjoys a 44 percent lead over his opponent,
Congressman Steve Stockman, Stockman is a tea party favorite, and the type
of politician who can out-conservative a conservative like Cornyn. Just
look at his campaign bumper sticker that read, if babies had guns, they
wouldn`t be aborted. Or this gem, just last month, when Stockman tweeted,
about 110,000 people contracted Chlamydia each month, more than that signed
up for Obamacare, Obamacare is less popular than Chlamydia.

When giving his reason for why he should challenge someone like Cornyn,
Stockman said it was because Cornyn undermined Senator Ted Cruz`s fight to
stop Obamacare.

Ron -- no, I`m not going to ask you to defend that, who could, right? But
here`s what -- on my very first show with my very first guest, almost two
years ago, the question I asked is, what is conservatism and how is it
related to what conservatism might have been defined as, say, 30 years ago?
And I feel like two years later, I still don`t have a very good answer to
that because when I see that, you know, babies with guns shooting out of
the womb, that doesn`t strike me as conservative.

CHRISTIE: I`m not going to insult somebody personally. And I`ll keep
Ronald Reagan`s 11th commandment, not to speak ill of fellow Republican.
However, that guy has the no business being in elected office with that
sort of comments.

I think John Cornyn is a great senator. I think he is a great leader for
us. He has done a lot of things. I think what a conservative is it`s
someone who wants to have a small and limited government, we stick to the
(INAUDIBLE) and powers the constitution, we have a strong national defense,
and protect our homeland. A lot of these social issues that these guys are
going off on, I respect their opinion, but it`s not about governing, in my

VOLSKY: If it is not about governing, it is about making sure government
doesn`t work at all. It`s about all the filibustering, stalling, making
sure that bill never becomes law. I mean, that`s the problem. Cornyn is
in leadership. And as someone in leadership, he has to make some kind of
compromise to make sure things happen. And that`s the problem that
Stockman has. That he works, tries to, you know, maybe build consensus and
doesn`t take a purely ideological root, and that is grounds for dismissal.
If you don`t want to govern, get out of government.

CHRISTIE: That`s exactly right, exactly right.

RYE: Can we really say the person who ranked second most conservative and
is the Senate minority whip, so like you said in leadership, can we really
say that he`s a compromiser at that point? Even in 2008, he was ranked 17.

VOLSKY: Well, compared to stockman.

RYE: Sure!


BELTRAN: The other part of this, I think we forget historically, party in
fighting has galvanized and energized the GOP and somewhat for a long time.
I mean, if you look at Goldwater`s conscience of a conservative, when that
was published in 1960s, it doesn`t open by attacking liberals, it attacks
establishment Republicans, right? It attacks establishment Republicans.
And then Reagan, who`s a Goldwater follower, right, makes his name by
attacking you know, the Republican establishment. He challenges Ford in

And then, so there is, I mean you know, Newt Gingrich is the contract with
America. So there`s been a long history of attacking sort of the man, but
I think they reached the kind of cultural revolution end of the story where
you just have so many purges and you eat your own like I wonder if we`re at
the end of that.

HARRIS-PERRY: So this story is not one I`ve thought about before. And
this is fabulously interesting to me. So if we look at the map of Senate
primary challenges right now, almost all of those primary challenges are
coming towards Republicans. You see right there that basically everyone
who is facing a primary challenge is currently has a Republican incumbent.
Wyoming is probably the big one folks who again mostly because of Liz
Cheney, not because she`s doing particularly well, India is beating her
pretty well in the polls. But when Democrats in-fight, it typically hasn`t
strengthened the party.

So why is that? Why would it strengthen the party for Republicans but not
for Democrats?

BELTRAN: What`s interesting, we dis-empower our left and they empower
their right. And so, I think that is part of the story. But I think
there`s something just very interesting about the way that we -- and I
think also, Democrats participate in this. Because we tell this magical
story of their -- remember when there was really great establishment --
remember where the Republican Party was, you know, just really
straightforward and knew how to govern and compromise? That party has been
fighting with itself for 50 years, right? So that`s starting. But once
you`re in office, of course, you have to make deals and govern. And to the
lesson that all insurgents learn is they have to govern, right?

But I do think that, you know, I think there is a very -- the stories are
not parallel with these two parties and we tend to try to make equivalences
and they`re not.

HARRIS-PERRY: It is also raging it was like you have to learn to govern
once you get in because that is part of what the tea party`s demonstrated,
they`re not going to be willing to learn because they don`t what to -- .


RYE: And I was just thinking, to me, in 2010, the Republican infighting
took a particularly dangerous tone, because wasn`t just about infighting
anymore, it was about taking our country back with the resurrection of the
tea party. And it was very, very racial, whether any of them will admit it
or not.

CHRISTIE: Racial, I will not sit here and allow you to say that.

RYE: I said it and I`ll s it again.

CHRISTIE: There were 63 people who came in 2010, because the government
grew too much --

RYE: You should calm down just a little bit.

CHRISTIE: I will not allow people to sit here and say there was a racial
aspect to it. That`s absolutely false.

HARRIS-PERRY: So this is absolutely valuable and I`m not going to let it
die over the course of the commercial. I want to come back and ask a
question about voters. I think this is relevant. I think the fact that
you feel that much passion about it means we should talk about it.

So when we come back, we`ll ask that question.


HARRIS-PERRY: All right, we`re back because there`s a real tension here
that I think is worth us spending a little time with.

So I want to pause and breathe, because that`s what Nerdland is good for.

Angela, I want to allow you first to make your point, because what I heard
you say was that the language of take back our country had a rationalized
overtone to it that was associated with the election of a black president.
But what I felt like I heard Ron -- what I felt like I heard you heard
Angela say was, Republicans are racist. So let me pause and allow you both
to say what you want to say and how you heard it.

RYE: Sure. The tea party has some serious racial challenges. For
example, when they were -- when the House of Representatives were voting on
Obamacare, all of the tea party members that came to protest on the hill
spat on my future boss, who was the congressional black caucus incoming
chair. John Lewis, who had already been beaten and bludgeoned, trying to
ensure that we would all have voting rights and parody in this country was
called the "n" word. So, this isn`t something that I made up, these are
things that really happened and continue to happen. And I think we see
them in the way in which people continue to talk about the president, to
the president, challenging his citizenship and all of those things. Is
that reflective of all people in the GOP? Absolutely not. But I think
it`s absolutely a problem and it has to be addressed. It happens every
time I`m on MSNBC, in my twitter feed, people touting --

CHRISTIE: I`m curious, were you there that day?

RYE: No, I was not.

CHRISTIE: I was actually there that day. I was doing a stand-up for
MSNBC, I was actually out talking to tea party people. I actually saw John
Lewis walk out to go to the capital to vote. I did not hear the "n" word.

RYE: I`m sorry you didn`t hear it.

CHRISTIE: And John Lewis has never said on camera. Reporters have asked
him, did people call you the "n" word.

RYE: And most of the members said that they will refuse to talk about that
day, because it was so insulting.

CHRISTIE: The only thing I can say to you is that I was there. I was
standing there, I was listening, I didn`t hear it.

RYE: I`m sorry.

CHRISTIE: So again, it`s a difference of opinion.

RYE: It`s not an opinion.

CHRISTIE: But for you not having been there, and I having been there --

RYE: I talked to the members, Ron.

CHRISTIE: Well, I have talked to the members myself. I was physically

VOLSKY: It`s not just Angela making this point. We saw after the 2012
elections, Colin Powell, a star in the Republican Party for years, come out
and say, there`s a vein of intolerance within the Republican Party. He was
pointing to people like Sununu, a surrogate for the Romney campaign, who
time and time again used race baiting to advance the candidate.

I mean, I remember doing posts on Think Progress. There was one particular
day towards the end of the election when we were able to point to four or
five different instances of race baiting within that one day. Everything
from calling the president lazy to all kinds of -- I mean, Sununu had to
apologize for an insensitive remark he once made. So, the campaign was
loaded with that in 2012. It goes well beyond one incident.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you a question and pull back from this a
little bit.

So, one of the challenges in sort of that kind of discourse is just that
there is lots of racial intolerance within the Democratic Party as well,
and I do sometimes worry that when we name the racial problems as one that
is about the attitudes of individuals, that it kind of allows a covering of
the attitudes of individuals on the left, because they`re like, well, I`m
behind the black president, therefore I can`t possibly be racist, right?


HARRIS-PERRY: That said, what I would like us to try to refocus on, then,
the question of racially disparate impacts in policy. So that whatever
good or bad emotions people may have about this president, about John
Lewis, who is an American hero, just sort of -- right, an icon, all of
those things. Because you know, what is important to me about this moment
is African-Americans do not all think the same thing. That we legitimately
stand on different sides of the issues. But there are empirical realities
about whether or not some policies have a disparately positive impact
and/or negative impact on the question of closing the gap of racial
inequality. And on that, Democrats have done better since Democrats became
the contemporary Democrats, not the Democrats of the, you know, of old, in
doing better on policies that close the racial divide on economic
inequality, not perfectly, but better.

VOLSKY: When you look at the issue of health care, there, even a sub-issue
of Medicaid expansion of Republican governors refusing to expand Medicaid.
Well, the population that benefits the most disproportionately from
Medicaid, from health care for lower income Americans are African-
Americans. You have Republican governors saying no, no way, even though
the economics and the conservative case for expanding Medicaid is so

HARRIS-PERRY: So Igor, pause right there, because precisely the question I
want to ask when we come back is about the possibilities of coalition
building across partisan lines and other identity-based lines, because when
we talk about the Republicans, who do we think we`re talking about? At of
our neighbors and friends are Republicans. Who are those Republicans and
how is this fighting at the Republican top impacting folks who are
Republican on the bottom?


HARRIS-PERRY: When we start talking about the Republicans, it is just who
do we think we are discussing, elected leadership, like Boehner? Those who
don`t hold office, but do attract headlines like Palin? Well, financed
conservative think tanks and politician like Heritage? Maybe.

But focusing on those Republicans may allow us to forget the Republicans
who are our neighbors and friends and coworkers and fellow citizens --
Republican voters. If we claim Republicans won more than they lost in this
budget deal, which Republicans do we think won, exactly? Because there
have got to be plenty of Republican voters among the 1.3 million unemployed
Americans who will lose their unemployment benefits at the end of this

So, Kristina, then what happens? So for those Republicans who are
disadvantaged by a set of Republican policies, do we expect them to become
harder right tea party folks? Do we expect them to become Democrats or
potentially just to opt out altogether?

BELTRAN: Right, right. I think one thing, when we talk about voters,
that`s so hard is that the sense of being a voter and your sort of
relationship to the party is so diffuse, right? So the sense of like, a
lot of people don`t feel like I`m a Republican, I`m a Democrat. They, you
know, there are a certain group of people who feel that way. But a lot of
folks just vote for candidates, they vote in very kind of emotive ways. I
think one of the really dangerous things for Democrats in particular is
that when government stops working, I think it makes it easier for the
anti-government argues to work. So I think for some people who end up
looking at cuts in their unemployment benefits, they think, this is the
problem with government.


BELTRAN: But we have to think a lot about the fact that a lot of people
don`t necessarily have strongly held ideological positions. I mean, that
is -- those of us who do feel that way, you know, that`s what being a
Democrat or being a Republican is. But for a lot of people, it`s so much
more sort of emotional and affective. And I think that`s part of what`s
also dangerous about the way parties or people are manipulating voters,
manipulating voters through misinformation.

And I would argue that the Republican Party has made that much more of a
strategy of their party, is, I think they show a lot of contempt for their
voters. And I think that`s something they do constitutively as a party, is
they show a lot of contempt for voters.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, it used to be one of the ways that Democrats and
Republicans both governed was through bringing home goodies to
constituents, right. So, that is part of why there weren`t these strong
ideological or party attachments because what you wanted was you are
incumbent who brought you this project. To that, is the end of earmarks
has both impacted Boehner`s leadership, his ability to log role, to get
those folks together. But also, doesn`t it then impact the ability of
voters to say, this guy, this gal is my guy or gal?

VOLSKY: It`s made it a lot harder for them to put these votes together.
But I think what voters look at government as some of these goodies, they
don`t just look at government not working, government that seem too big. I
mean, that`s certainly a problem, you know, as far as voters see it.

I think we`re in a time, and the president discussed this last week, of
such great equality, of such great income stagnation. And voters see
government rewarding the very rich, the top 10 percent, the top one

So it`s not just this argument of government is too big. I think
progressives have a lot to say about government working for the very few,
and I think that turns off voters just as much.

RYE: You know, the one thing that I was thinking about is the book that
came out in 2004, "what`s the matter with Kansas?" because folks often vote
against their interest because they are voting where they wish they were
and particularly --.


RYE: And that is, I think, what you`re seeing with the Republican Party.
Most of the members in the House are absolutely supported by their
constituents. There`s a certain voting bloc that supports them, and as the
districts became more gerrymandered in 2010, you have more ideologically
based congressional districts. And so, they are supported by this and they
do support their members.

HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it`s interesting, the argument you just made about
what`s the matter with Kansas and folks in voting against their narrow
economic interests, is actually an argument often made by African-Americans
within the Republican party that black folks are voting against their
interests in sort of 90 percent support and better during the President
Obama years in terms of support for the Democratic Party.

Now, I think -- I personally think that doesn`t quite hold up empirically,
but it`s certainly is an argument that often comes from the GOP about both
economic and sort of ethical moral alignment with the Republicans.

CHRISTIE: Well, you know, Kristina has said that Republicans have contempt
for their voters. I think Democrats, particularly black Democrats are held
in contempt by the Democratic Party. If you look at the last 50 years, the
statistical unemployment rates for black has been over 10 percent, often 12

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s been true for every that`s been true since the 70s,
whether the president was a --

CHRISTIE: I`m focusing on one demographic which is the African-American
population in the United States, and I`m focusing on that specific level of
unemployment rate for the last 50 years.

HARRIS-PERRY: When we`ve had both Democrat and Republican presidents.

CHRISTIE: That`s right. But my point is, I mean, Democrats are saying how
compassionate they are, how compassionate the president is, why aren`t we
really addressing the core issues of this inequality, which in my view is
education. Why aren`t we saying we need to put as much power of education
and making sure these kids have the tools they need to succeed?

HARRIS-PERRY: Well. But I will say, Ron, the one -- I`ve got to go, but
one thing I will say is on this topic, there is a great deal of bipartisan
support in this sort of free market, neo-liberalism around schools. I
mean, on this one, you guys actually have convinced the Democrats, and you
know, that`s the one I don`t agree with.

OK. Thank you to Angela Rye and to Igor Volsky. I hope you guys will come
back and have a great holiday. Ron will be with us back in the next hour.

But up next, we are going to switch gears and talk about an issue plaguing
millions of young people, posttraumatic stress when the battlefield is in
your own backyard.


HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been talking about a lot of things, but one of them is
outside influence in politics. And there`s perhaps no issue when that
influence is more coordinated and effective than in the gun control debate.

But before we get into that, I want to just pause and talk for a moment
about the real lives impacted by gun violence. Not the shocking headline-
making school shootings, which despite Friday`s news out of Colorado, are
still, in fact, pretty rare, but how lives, especially young lives, are
impacted by the everyday violence in many neighborhoods and cities, in
places like Oakland, California, where children have often lost multiple
loved ones to violence. They live with that threat of violence and the
sounds of gunshots and sirens every day.

In 2012, about 2,000 violent crimes were committed per 100,000 people in
Oakland contrast that nationwide, where only 387 violent crimes per 100
people. Now, these data come from an article this week in the east bay
express, detailing how that violence impacts far more people than those
physically struck by the bullets.

One young woman in the story lost on uncle and five close friends in the
span of five years. Her mother was shot in the leg the same week her uncle
was killed. Another friend was the victim of sexual assault.

In Oakland and nationwide, there is a growing awareness that the trauma of
living with constant violence can lead to depression, anxiety, and even
PTSD, posttraumatic stress disorder in our children.

Joining our table now are Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for
Gun Sense in America, also back with us, Jonathan Metzel, professor of
psychiatric at Vanderbilt University.

But before we come back to the table, I want to go first to San Francisco
to talk with Rebecca Ruiz, who is a reporter for the "East Bay Express,"
who wrote this week about Oakland`s efforts to diagnose and treat children
coping with trauma, and Kyndra Simmons who`s the program manager for youth
alive, caught in the crossfire program which works with young victims of
violence in Oakland.

It is so nice to have you both here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for having us.

HARRIS-PERRY: So Rebecca, first, talk to me about this idea of PTSD, which
we typically think of being like combat troops who are coming home from the
theater of war. Why use that language to describe what is happening with
kids in Oakland?

REBECCA RUIZ, REPORTER, EAST BAY EXPRESS: Well, Kyndra might be able to
address this from a therapist`s point of view or a social worker`s point of
view, but this is what the kids are actually experiencing. We think, PTSD
is a condition that soldiers have, but it affects many people who
experience traumatic events and it`s particularly happening to children in
Oakland, who experience chronic violence.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, Kyndra, talk to me a little bit about how those trauma
symptoms actually manifest themselves in young people.

KYNDRA SIMMONS, YOUTH ALIVE: Well, young people, particularly in Oakland,
they are living, in what we do consider the war zones. They hear gunfire,
they cross yellow tape. So when they go to school, they`re agitated. I
mean, it`s a challenge just walking from home to school or trying to catch
the bus. I mean, they hear gunshots at school, they hear gunshots at home.
So, they walk around angry or they either self-medicate. This is all just
the symptoms of what we would call PTSD, but it`s actually ongoing trauma,
because they don`t actually get away from it.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s a great point. Let me come to the table for one

Because, Jonathan, I want to follow up on what Kyndra is saying there about
the idea that the trauma season post, it`s actually ongoing. How that does
change the nature of what the trauma is?

Many of the early studies of what we call PTSD now were done with soldiers
in Vietnam. And the thought at the time was that the more time you were in
combat, the higher your risk of PTSD. But there`s never a study that said,
if you just lived in combat, so in a way, it`s off the charts and it`s
completely understandable that people who are living with the constant
anxiety and stress of violence would suffer these kinds of symptoms.

HARRIS-PERRY: Let me go back to you, Rebecca. Because the piece
undoubtedly deals with questions of health care, psychiatric care for young
people. But I was really interested in the idea of schools and the fact
that, you know, the place where these young people spend most of their time
is obviously in the schools, and all of these traumatic symptoms end up
manifesting themselves in school behavior, and then we`re often in schools
that then treat these kids with zero tolerance policies. How do we need to
adjust the policies of schools and of education to address the kind of
traumatic communities in which these children live?

RUIZ: Yes. I think that the Oakland school district has done a great job
of trying to get at that question, giving teachers experience and
understanding of what trauma looks like in their children. And that some
schools are pulling back on the zero tolerance policy, so that when you are
disciplining a child, you`re considering what kind of suffer or trauma that
they`re experiencing and how that might be affecting their behavior.

HARRIS-PERRY: Now Kyndra, let me ask you a little bit about that as well.
I wonder if there`s ways in which issues of race, of inequality, and of
poverty make it hard for us to see these kids as wounded children rather
than as themselves potentially criminal. Because I assume that part of
what happens with the trauma is they then will sometimes re-victimize
others in their community.

SIMMONS: Exactly. I think with young people who are constantly
victimized, constantly seeing the trauma, because we look at the trauma,
and it is a form of victimization. Our young people, when they are out
about in the community, they tend to look like the young people who are
committing the crimes. So, as we all know, violence is a learned behavior.
So whether a young person is a victim, we soon know that after that, they
will become a perpetrator.

So with organizations like youth alive, what we do in working with young
people is we make sure not to criminalize and not to further traumatize the
young person, so use a trauma, inform, and care approach, so we understand
that young people who are living in traumatic situations, living in these
neighborhoods that are considered war zones, we know what that looks like.
We know what that behavior looks like. So, we make sure not to further
punish them or make them feel as if their behavior is just so outside of
the normal. We want them to know that violence is a learned behavior and
it`s not normal.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Rebecca Ruiz and to Kyndra Simmons for sort of
setting our table here so we remember, as we go into our conversations
about gun, there are real people`s lives impacted by the violence in our
communities. Thank you for your work.

RUIZ: Thank you.

SIMMONS: Thank you.

HARRIS-PERRY: And when we come back, the harrowing school shooting that
made national headlines just yesterday. It could have been much worse.
All of that is up next.


HARRIS-PERRY: This morning, we want to share with you a few new details
about Friday`s shooting at Arapahoe high school in Centennial, Colorado, a
suburb of Denver.

Before the shooter, 18-year-old Karl Pierson took his own life, he shot one
fellow student, 17-year-old senior Claire Ester Davis, who underwent
surgery Friday and remains in critical condition with major head trauma.
The local sheriff holding her picture at a Saturday press conference said
that Claire was an innocent victim in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We`re also learning more about the suspect. Authorities believe Pierson
originally targeted a school staff member for some type of retaliation, but
denied earlier reports that he`d been kicked off the debate team.

According to NBC News, Pierson was armed with a machete, three Molotov
cocktails, one of which was set off, and Pierson purchased the pump action
shotgun used in the shooting incident legally on December 6th at a local
retail outlet, then legally purchased multiple rounds of shotgun an in
addition on Friday morning.

This latest shooting has once again fueled the debate over gun control.
And why a year after the Newtown tragedy and 14 years after Columbine, we
are talking about the same thing.

You have been in D.C. all week, in advance of that Newtown one-year
anniversary, not knowing, obviously, what was going to happen on Friday in
Colorado, trying to talk to lawmakers. What has that experience been like
for you?

anniversary of our organization today. A year ago, I started a facebook
page, which has turned into a grassroots movement in just a year, which
shows you where mothers are on this issue and legislators are listening to

We sat in the offices of Senator Harry Reid and we went with at least a
dozen other members of Congress. And what we said was, it is time to act.
And even if you can`t win this vote with this Congress, we want these
people on record going into the midterms. Will they vote for background
checks or not? Are they going to do the right thing? And if they`re not,
we want that to be fresh in people`s minds as they go into the polls in the

HARRIS-PERRY: So you want the vote even if the legislation won`t pass?

WATTS: I think this Congress has proven they are in the pockets of the gun
lobby for the most part. This may not be the Congress to get it done, so
we have to vote in the Congress that will in 2014.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, I want to come to you in just one second,
Jonathan. I got one more question, though, one of the things that happens
in this moment, and like even as I`m reading the name of the 17-year-old
girl who was shot, and so, I have this certain kind of guilt about, now we
go immediately to talking about politics.

So as a mom, I guess I want to ask -- although you cannot speak for all
parents on this, obviously, like, is this the wrong time? Should we just
be talking about the victims, about their trauma, or is this the right time
to be having this conversation?

WATTS: When there`s an incident like this, it`s not too soon to talk about
it, it`s too late. And we have been told for decades that you cannot talk
about something after it happens. They cannot be (INAUDIBLE), never again.

Moms will never be silent in this country again. And as soon as it
happens, we`re going to start calling for reforms in this country. I have
an 18-year-old daughter. I would want her to have a shotgun as much as I
would like her to have the keys to my liquor cabinet. It isn`t the right
idea in this country that we aren`t everyone, including 18-year-old
children. I think they`re children.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Jonathan?

METZL: I mean, that is so encouraging. I mean, I was feeling yesterday, I
was on the show, and it felt like kind of a repetition and was a kind of
hopelessness, my God, we`re having the same thing again and getting back to
PTSD. One thing we know is that, over time, dealing with the repetition of
a violent act, that there is a kind of situation that we kind of get used
to it. And so, hearing that there`s so much grassroots activism around
this, you know, I think we can`t habituate this. This cannot become the
new normal for us.

HARRIS-PERRY: So my progressive impulse sits on this side of the table,
right? Not that you`re on that side of the table, Kristina, but it sits in
this notion that we`ve got to restrict guns. But I live in a community
more like that Oakland community than like Newtown, in New Orleans, one
that is traumatized by regular violence. And I am a mom of a twin child
and there is also a part of me that says, I want to have the right to be
armed, because -- and I grew up in a household with a father who had guns.
And there`s a part of me that says, hey, those bad guys have guns and as
long as that`s true, and that`s going to be true for a little while longer,
I don`t want to not be able to -- like, so there`s a mother part of me that
wants to keep my kid from having a gun and there`s a mother part of me that
wants to protect my kid with a gun.

BELTRAN: There`s an interesting question about trying to feel, you know,
the protection, right, this compulsion to protection. And I think -- but I
think one thing you`ve talked about is there`s this larger sense of all
these children, right, not just my child, but all children. And that
really is what your organization is trying to get at. And I think that,
you know, one of the things we`re talking about that we just have to keep
talking about is what lives are grievable (ph) and what lives are
continually treated as disposable, you know. And it is really the story of
black and brown children dying in inner cities, poor children in general,
dying in inner cities.

HARRIS-PERRY: Isn`t it shocking to you that after Newtown -- because these
Newtown children --

BELTRAN: These are quintessential American children --

HARRIS-PERRY: And we did nothing!

BELTRAN: Yes. No. I think this is a culture war where at some point
someone`s going to win and someone`s going to lose. But, I actually want
to get back to us point about taking a vote. I think what is interesting
is that the right has this kind of -- we talk about in feminist politics
performance, right, and performance. The Republicans are very good at
performtivity (ph) and performance. They have been voting against
Obamacare over and over, even if it means nothing. But there`s something
about the fact that they keep performing that. Why don`t Democrats vote on
things in a way -- there`s something about doing that, where you`re like,
take a stand.

HARRIS-PERRY: So keep voting for Minchin-Toomey even if it is not going to


BELTRAN: Because in some ways Republicans have been kind of la la land
doing that. But there is something perhaps profound about taking votes on
the world as it was.

HARRIS-PERRY: Because it makes that thing seem vulnerable because they are
all these --.

Kristina Beltran is on fire today!


HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up next, the gun lobby strategy from states to small
town America.

Plus, I can`t believe this, Nikki Giovanni is coming to Nerdland and she is
going to be ego tripping live. You are not going to want to miss this.

There is more Nerdland at the top of the hour.


HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.

In the months following the Newtown shooting, 28 communities in Maryland
got an unwelcome piece of mail. In a report this week from "Mother Jones",
we learned about at mail. A letter that looked like this one and was
addressed to the attorney for the town of Walkersville, Maryland, a town
about 50 miles northwest on Baltimore.

As you can see there, it`s from the Second Amendment Foundation, or SAF, a
legal action organization in Washington state. Now, even though it came
from across the country, the letter warned Walkersville about the part of
their town code that, quoting the letter, "purports to prohibit the
carrying of loaded firearms anywhere in the town."

The SAF then warned Walkersville that their town code violated the state`s
open carry law, concluding, quote, "Failure to bring the town code into
compliance with the state law puts the town at risk for a lawsuit. This
argument is based on what`s called the legal conflict of preemption, which
restricts local lawmakers` authority to regulate firearms beyond what`s in
state law.

And there`s no need to go after new federal gun control laws since Newtown,
since there aren`t any. If local and state gun laws or gun rights
organizations like SAF are focusing their energies. But it goes beyond
warning letters to communities like Walkersville. Their message is that
gun rights are a civil rights issue for all Americans.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t defend my family because I live in Chicago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am free to defend my family with my AR-15, my
shotgun, or my handgun because I live in Wyoming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can`t even protect myself if I`m attacked because I
live in D.C.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I carry my 9-millimeter in my purse anywhere I go in

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t protect my small retail shop here in Brooklyn.



Walkersville, Maryland, is standing up to that kind of outside push. The
town attorney found that they weren`t violating state law and the town
commissioner, quote, "I don`t think we even wrote back."

Joining me again is Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun
Sense in America, an organization seeking gun law reforms. Alongside her,
Jonathan Metzl, professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University.

Also here, Cristina Beltran, who associate professor of social and cultural
analysis at New York University, and Ron Christie, who`s contributing
columnist for "The Daily Beast," and former special assistant to President
George W. Bush.

Ron, I want to come to you on this. In addition to like protecting your
family with your AR -- that was a lot. But I actually want to come to you
on this particular strategy, which is it feels funny to me around
conservatism, because conservatism typically says, make policy at the most
local possible level, because people will understand the needs of that
community and it threatens if you are making laws that don`t conform with
the state, then you can be sued.

RON CHRISTIE, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I think the conservative position on
this is looking at the Second Amendment, and the Second Amendment is very
explicit about the ability to possess and carry arms. The one thing that
I, looking at the entire debate, the emotions that are contained in this,
that make it so excited.

And I respect very much what you`re doing, Shannon, but nothing would have
changed what happened in Newtown if we had background check legislation
that has been pushed in the Congress. That was a legally obtained weapon
from the mother that the son took and did his horrific acts.

And I think that folks needed to take a step back and say, we uphold the
Constitution, but I respect what you`re trying to do and to elevate this
issue, because I think it`s something frankly that the lawmakers should be
on record for. Where do you stand, where do you want to be? And this is
why I think this is a conservative issue that should be at the federal
level, where it belongs because of the constitutional provisions.

JONATHAN METZL, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: You know, I respect that point and
I would say that the irony here is, I don`t think anybody in the mainstream
debate here is saying, we should take away all of everybody`s guns. I
think that people`s guns to protect themselves are not really even part of
the debate.

HARRIS-PERRY: I`m a little nervous about Claire`s 9 in her purse.

METZL: Yes, but I would say that there are a couple problems with that.
One is that I hear the issue a lot about, well, it wouldn`t have prevented
another Newtown. But I think there`s a lot of research coming out of Duke
and Johns Hopkins and other places that say that essentially, we want to
prevent the next Newtown, absolutely, but setting national gun policy based
on these -- there have only been 55 mass shootings, I guess 56 now, in the
country, in the last 30 years.

What we really want to prevent is everyday violence, the thousands and
thousands and thousands of things. So in a way, setting gun policy based
on these relatively rare occurrences is not indicative of the much bigger
problem about what it`s like to live in Oakland.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right, right. This is such a great point, especially
on this sort of localism versus state. This is exactly what`s going on in
part in California.

So, California, which is among the states that has -- in fact, Brady really
likes California, because they have some of best gun laws. And yet Oakland
carved out for itself the ability to pass even tougher gun laws within the
city of Oakland, because they said, we are facing a problem that is not
about being out on the range, we`re facing a problem right here in our

METZL: If I could just add, in get back to the PTSD question, undoubtedly,
the bigger issue is kind of the secondhand smoke of gun violence. It`s
what`s happening to communities, people who aren`t shot are living with the
threat of being shot.

And as much as I respect the question of are there mental health diagnoses
for that, I think we have a long history of knowing that if you live in a
racist society, you have higher cortisol. If you live in a poverty-poor
area, you have all these medical problems. In a way, what we`re dong is
localizing the problem on individual people`s brains, but we need to change
the structure. It`s a structural problem, as much as we need to take care
of people`s individual psychology.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Inequality is bad for our brain, for our health.

METZL: Fix the system. Yes.

HARRIS-PERRY: Cristina, I want to bring you in here, because part of what
I see is a challenge is really trying to figure what I think are people of
goodwill. This is not one of those moments where people say, the NRA and
SAF, they just want kids to die, or Republicans just don`t care. They`re
happy for people should be shot.

But I just -- even in our most extreme, I don`t think anyone thinks that
about the other side, or credibly, right?

METZL: Right.

HARRIS-PERRY: So how, then, do we start to navigate a question of, there
is a second amendment. It has been understood by the Supreme Court in a
very particular way. And yet, also feels as though those founders in the
18th century could not possibly have imagined the level of militaristic --


HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.

CRISTINA BELRAN, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: I think that really having a serious
conversation about it. And we talk a lot about guns, but we don`t have
serious conversations about structural inequality. And we don`t really
have a serious conversation about what it even means to talk about common
sense gun control. Like the language of common sense gun control,
sometimes does make people who are gun control advocates feel like, is that
going to get to the real problem?

So we need to have a real conversation about gun culture. And I think this
point about the normalization of violence in communities and, you know, I
think we need to tell more stories. And I think storytelling is actually
really critical here, about lives lost.

You know, and the uniqueness of each life, and so the loss of that life
being meaningful, right? We need to talk more about that and maybe that
would lead to a better conversation about day-to-day gun violence and who -
- the day-to-day slaughter going on.

HARRIS-PERRY: Do you feel that storytelling and narratives moves
lawmakers? So when you go and tell those stories, do you have stories of
lawmakers moving once they`ve heard them?

SHANNON WATTS, MOMS DEMAND ACTION: Well, you know, going in there just as
a mother to begin is different than what they`re used to seeing and meeting
with. So we go in there and bring our infants and we bring our toddlers
and we have them at the table and talk and we say, this is why we`re
fighting. And some of our moms are victims of gun violence, some of them
have been affected.

One in three people in America are affected by gun violence. And so, this
is a national epidemic, and we need to put a face on that.

But there are 80 million moms in this country. And this is not, in my
opinion, a partisan issue. This is a common sense issue. This is a
cultural issue.

And if we band together, we will affect change. We have in this country,
forever. Women are on the forefront of these kinds of issues, drunk
driving, segregation. We can do it again with gun violence.

HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting that you said, I`ve sort of forgotten
because we do start focusing on kids and school and the mass shooting. So,
I`m thinking, what moms are doing is protecting their children, but, in
fact, domestic violence and the number of women who lose their lives in
domestic violence situations, when there isn`t access to the gun is

WATTS: Nine women every week are shot and killed in this country.

HARRIS-PERRY: How many? Say it again.

WATTS: Nine women every week.

HARRIS-PERRY: Nine women every week are shot and killed by their domestic

WATTS: By domestic violence.

METZL: And we`re number one in suicide, by far.

BELTRAN: One thing I`m thinking about real quickly, we don`t nearly enough
about is why don`t we discuss this in a comparative context, with Great
Britain? And I think we might want to have a conversation about other
country`s gun laws and say --



HARRIS-PERRY: It`s the whole reason that we have a Second Amendment, is
because of Great Britain, because we -- the king, and we were like, uh-uh.
No, not you, King George. I`m just saying. The reason is because if you
bring up Great Britain, we`re like, well, the whole reason we have Second
Amendment is because George. Tyranny!


BELTRAN: Despite the fact they don`t have our gun laws, they appear to be
free in those countries. They appear to be functioning citizens in those

HARRIS-PERRY: This is going to get hot -- this is apparently going to get
hot in the commercial. Thank you, Shannon Watts, Jonathan Metzl, Cristina
Beltran and Ron Christie.

And I am happy we broke free of Great Britain. I`m down for that.

Thank you -- yes, all that. Yes, oh, right, France, Louisiana.

After the break, some fascinating fun facts. The world that we learned
about -- look, about 2,000 -- OK, I`m sorry. The world, as we have
learned, has about 2,170 billionaires. A few years back, three of them
tried to do something very unusual and since then, more and more of their
friends have been catching on, to the tune of more than half a trillion
dollars. What these billionaires are up to and why it is so complicated is


HARRIS-PERRY: This Sunday morning, I would like to ask the congregation of
Nerdland to turn your books to the gospel of Biggie, second album, disc
one, and met at a time upon the wisdom of one of our greatest hip hop
disciples, mo money, mo problems.

When the Notorious B.I.G. as he once said made the change from common thief
to up close and personal with Robin Leach, he discovered thing that wealthy
Americans have long understood. It isn`t easy to be stuck with all that
green. `80s babies might remember, that was exactly the dilemma facing
Montgomery Brewster, the washed up baseball player portrayed by Richard
Pryor in "Brewster`s Millions."

Brewster discovered he has a wealthy great uncle who`s prepared to make him
the sole beneficiary of his fortune if he can satisfy one simple request.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have 30 days to spend 30 million bucks. If you can
do it, you get 300 million, but if you fail, you don`t get diddly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why can`t I tell my friends?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I don`t want anybody helping you out.


HARRIS-PERRY: But when Brewster finds out, when you have millions, getting
rid of that money is a lot harder than it sounds. The complications around
giving away money, from family ties to disdain of the spotlight may be why.
According to a recent article in "Business Insider," only 5 percent of the
world`s billionaires have been persuaded to join the giving pledge, a
campaign where the world`s richest people vowed to give away at least half
of their wealth to clarity.

It leaves a lot of convincing to do by the three people who started the
project in 2010, by making themselves the first billionaires to take that
pledge, Bill and Melinda gates and Warren Buffett.

But let`s clear, even though most of the world`s big spenders are doing
their own thing, 5 percent of all the billionaires on the planet is by no
means small change. That`s 128 people, according to "Business Insider,"
who are each worth billions. That`s billions, with a "B," of dollars. And
their combined assets estimated to be worth more than $600 billion.

Meaning their commitments to the giving pledge amount to at least $300
billion of those billions, all to philanthropic causes. The vast majority
of those taking the pledge are from the country with more billionaires than
any other, us, the United States. Which is probably why most of his
billionaire buddies are still being stingy with their charity cash,
Warren`s having a lot more success with that plan than to get wealthy
Americans to turn over their money than this other one. You remember the
Buffett Rule was part of President Obama`s tax plan in 2010 based on
Buffett`s rule that the very rich should pay their fair share of taxes.

Maybe you don`t remember because the plan went no where fast after dying in
the Senate vote year -- which means if we want to rich to pay mo money,
getting them to get out of charity instead of federal obligations may be
our only option.

Joining me now, Jennifer Jones Austin, the executive director and CEO of
the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies and the co-chair of Mayor-
elect Bill de Blasio`s transition team. And Stacy Palmer, editor of
"Chronicle of Philanthropy". Also, Igor Volsky who is the managing editor
of, and Aurora Zepeda, who is executive president of
Homes for the Homeless.

So nice to have you all here.

So let`s talk about this notion of philanthropy versus redistribution of
income through taxes. How effective is it to say the wealthy have these
assets, they`ve earned these assets or they`ve inherited these assets a now
we want to ask them to redistribute them based on their own beliefs,
values, goals by contributing to charity. Is that effective to move that
money along?

IGOR VOLKSY, THINKPROGRESS.ORG: I think that`s certainly part of the
solution. I think there`s a great partnership between private philanthropy
and the government. And the reason why we have so much need, the reason
why we have such a big income gap is because of government policy.

And I think it`s going to in part take a government solution to get us out
of there. So, building up the safety net, investing in infrastructure,
providing people with affordable health care, making sure the rich pay
their fair share in taxes. You need those kinds of policies to close that
income gap, to move forward, because philanthropy is not going to do it on
its own.

HARRIS-PERRY: And part of the reason philanthropy is not going to do it on
its own, just when we were looking at the numbers, this is what I want to -
- let me see if I can get you guys to weigh in on, they tend to give to
things like private schools, colleges, opera houses, all really valuable
and important things, but also things that may benefit them more than what
they think of as traditional charitable giving.

often happens, the wealthy are disconnected from the issues of the real
people that are struggling day to day. They are connected to what they
know. So, they know the schools from which they came, that they believe
helped them make it in the world. They know of the opera and other
theatrical activities and events that they enjoy. They want to get back to

They`re removed from what is happening and the people who need it. They
don`t see it.

You know, if you were in a car moving from one place to the next, not in
the subway or walking the streets of poverty, you`re not going to see it so
you`re to the going to feel compelled to give in that regard.

HARRIS-PERRY: This is a great point that seems to be born out empirically,
because the wealthy who live in zip codes that are economically diverse
tend to give more to things like the United Way or Salvation Army. Those
who live in zip codes that are economically homogenous tend to give m to
their alma maters.

And again, no one`s suggesting one should not give to one`s alma mater, but
there is a funny tax thing that happens, right? So I`m not taxed and I
give to a 501c3, but it`s actually 1 percent are 501c3. So, I give to that
and then I get a tax break for having given to that, but that still doesn`t
move down to the folks who are on the bottom.

AURORA ZEPEDA, HOMES FOR THE HOMELESS: Yes, you know, there`s nothing
wrong with having these private priorities, individual priorities, but our
collective needs and our collective priorities, often, as Jennifer`s
saying, kind of fly below the radar screen. Things like poverty are
visible in our city, in our country, if nobody brings a spotlight to it.

So while it`s important that the wealthy give money, I think it`s important
that the wealthy open the doors to dialogue on these issues. It`s
important they bring their influence to bear. If they see it and provide
some resources, too, that`s great. But more is to make it known that this
is a public issue that we have to contend with. These are the very things
that really weigh in our public coffers.

HARRIS-PERRY: This is an interesting idea. And we see it -- so let me
take an example of the Koch brothers who often get critiqued for the
political giving that they give on the right, but if you spend any time in
New York, if you have a cancer treatment, it happens in a Koch, you know,
cancer center. If you go see a play, it happens in a Koch theater, right?

So there are huge philanthropists across things that don`t have any
particular ideological divide, but their political giving does have an
effect that is quite specifically towards an ideologically conservative

VOLSKY: That, I think, is the danger of exporting too much of the duty of
carrying it for low-income Americans, of building an education system that
works for everyone, for exporting that job to a small group of private
people, because some of those people are driven by very ideological
agendas, whether it be denying climate change or making sure there are
fewer regulations on business across the board.

So, again, we need a balance. We need to strike a balance to really make
this work.

AUSTIN: And I would just add that very often what happens is people are
removed from touching and feeling at a very early point in life. So that
community social responsibility is not really taught and reinforced, so
that when you acquire wealth, you know, or you inherit wealth, if that is
not what is within you to begin, your inclination is not necessarily going
to be to give --

HARRIS-PERRY: And I would to suggest in a way that is more than just
(INAUDIBLE), because to the extent that it does get developed, it is
sometimes kind of the largess giving back as opposed to a sense of
collective identity. I want to talk a little bit about that when we come
back, because -- up next, a discussion of a farewell to alms. The hottest
trend in giving is taking a page from the business community. This may or
may not be a good thing.


HARRIS-PERRY: If you`re a regular Nerdland watcher, you`re already in on
my shameful secret, that every now and then, when I can sneak a moment
alone, I like to enjoy dirty porn. No matter how hard I try, I can`t get
enough of what I like to call 1 percenter porn, starring the filthy rich.

I found my latest tidbit of titillation in the pages of one of my favorite
dirty magazines, "Town & Country." Oh, yes, baby. An article in the
December issue chicly titled "A Farewell to Alms" is all about how the old
fashion, direct donations kind of charity is giving way to venture
philanthropy. The new model is based in the venture capitalism movement
and includes all of the same requirements for long-term measurable

Think of it as teaching a man to fish rather than shoving a cupful of
salmon his way.

Joining now from San Francisco is one of those fishing teachers. Matt
Flannery was co-founder and CEO of Kiva, a nonprofit organization whose
mission is to alleviate poverty through online lending.

Nice to have you with us.

MATT FLANNERY, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, KIVA: Thanks for having me, Melissa.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, talk to me about this notion. I mean, you know, when
I`m reading "Town & Country" and they`re like, charity is out, venture
philanthropy is in. So what`s different than traditional charity?

FLANNERY: Yes. Well, venture philanthropy is a lot like venture capital
applied to the social sector. So essentially, venture philanthropists look
to take risks in social change businesses that can have a revenue stream
and can scale more sustainably.

HARRIS-PERRY: But that said, I was looking at the fact that not one of the
top 50 charitable gifts last year went to a social service organization or
to a charity that principally serves the poor and dispossessed.

So, on the one hand, I love the idea of Kiva. I mean, the micro-lending
both internationally and domestically has been critical. But I wonder if
it won`t go far enough into providing that sort of ground, that floor under
which people won`t fall.

FLANNERY: I think that`s right. I think there`s -- it`s important not to
trade them against each other. There`s a very strong place for -- and a
strong need for aid, given to people that need it most. But there`s also a
place for venture philanthropy. We find that about two-thirds of all new
jobs a created by small businesses in the U.S. and it`s important to
support that sector too because it`s struggling.

HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask -- who does venture philanthropy work well for
and for whom does it not work well?

foundations is the Robin Hood Foundation here in New York. So it can work
well for all kinds of causes. It doesn`t necessarily need to be just about
the rich or the poor. It can really be about everything.

But what`s important to look at is, what are the problems that we can`t
really measure? And how do we do a good job of knowing over the long-term,
how is a child`s life going to be changed by some of these programs. It`s
going to take us 50 years to know that. And the venture philanthropy model
doesn`t always have the patience for that. And so, sometimes, it doesn`t
scare resources in the right direction.

HARRIS-PERRY: Because it might need a return more quickly. We here in
Nerdland felt that emotion in our gut when we read "The New York Times"
piece, the invisible child, about homelessness here. And I kept thinking -
- you know, I love Kiva, but also, if you`re a kid, you`re not starting a
business. Like, you`ve got to be able to go to school, right? The
investment is the 50-year investment in your human capital based on good
high-quality public schools and safe, affordable public housing.

ZEPEDA: Absolutely. So I think that, again, it goes back to this idea
that we have to -- as a government and as people who have influence on
government, establish priorities. And then fund those priorities beyond
someone`s tenure in office. We really have to keep that on the forefront.
And so I think that, as Stacey was saying earlier, we forget that children
have very immediate needs and those needs as they grow and change over time
and we have to be very vigilant of that.

So, I think investing in their education first and foremost. Whether we
invest directly, you know, and prioritizing schools and what children need
in schools, or supporting the things outside of school that enrich their
lives that allow them to have opportunities to participate in society,
things like after-school programs, cultural enrichments, sports, all those
things that make kids are very important.

Whether you come at it through the shelter door or the schools or come at
it through community-based organization, the same kids will benefit no
matter what. There`s homeless children in every public school and every
classroom in this country, there`s homeless children every park. They shop
at the same store that we do. They`re there. And so, we need to invest in

HARRIS-PERRY: Matt, let me I want to ask you -- one of the things I love
about Kiva is the idea that people living in community have their own
solutions and what they simply need is capital in order to make those
solutions real. So I`m thinking here about the question for homelessness
or of education or any of a variety of interlocking social problems.

Does venture philanthropy give a better capacity to get those problems
solved or a different kind of capacity to get those problems solved by
community-based problems, problem solving?

FLANNERY: Exactly. I think it`s another alternative that needs to be
there and we`re trying to help fill that gap. We started a local food
cooperative in west Oakland just recently that`s providing locally sourced
fruits and vegetables to the community and it was community solution that
was created by the members to have that community, and actually has a
revenue stream and growing quite fast now.

So, looking for models like that all over the U.S. and I started this in
Uganda, so I`m sort of taking methods I learned there and applying them
here in the USA and working quite well.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, we have a Kiva in New Orleans. It`s micro-lending to
some really terrific organizations. So, thank you so much.

We`ve got a little bit more. As soon as we come back, we`ll stay on this
topic. But I am going to tell you a story that really got my executive
producer revved up. He loved this, because it was a good Walmart story.
I`m telling you, well, actually, just a story about a nice person shopping
in the Walmart, but it`s a good Walmart story, when we come back.


HARRIS-PERRY: Christmas came early to a Florida Walmart last week, when a
man who`s being called the layaway Santa paid off almost $20,000 in layaway
items for a few lucky shoppers. Financial planner Greg Paroty (ph) pulled
out his credit card after overhearing a woman say she might have to cancel
her order because she didn`t know if she could afford her payment this

This Good Samaritan`s generosity is a heartwarming story for the holidays,
but it also doesn`t reflect the reality of who`s more likely to be on the
giving end of charity. It turns out, based on an April article from "The
Atlantic" magazine, author Ken Stern writes that, quote, "In 2011, the
wealthiest Americans, those with earnings in the top 20 percent,
contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By
comparison, Americans are the base of the income pyramid, those in the
bottom 20 percent, donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative
generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that unlike
middle class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the
charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their
income tax returns."

So, Igor, the news this week about affluenza and this idea that this young
boy was not sentenced because -- even after a drunk driving incident and
part of what the judge says, oh, he has affluenza. You know, there`s been
a lot of debate about that`s. But I thought, this might be affluenza, if
in fact, the top 1 percent is only giving 1.3 and the bottom folks are
giving 3.2.

VOLSKY: You know, part of this could also be ideology. Because if you
look on the political right, there`s really this belief that people just
need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, they don`t need a handout,
we made it, we work hard, they should work hard as well.

And that`s an ideology you see in the Republican Party. I mean, in the
2012 election, you had three different candidates. People like Gingrich,
Bachmann, Santorum say, let`s repeal the health care law, and instead we`ll
just have charity take care of people. And if charity can`t, people can
just go to the emergency room and whatever.

And it`s this whatever, I think, that`s pervasive and some at the top,
certainly, but also in our politics. Our politics that say, people should
be on their own if they make it, and through working hard, that`s great,
and if not.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask -- so you frame it at ideology. And that
seems possible, right? So, I don`t know -- I can`t then break down those
numbers to Republicans and Democrats. So, I -- for me, that`s an empirical
question that must have an answer, but I don`t know what it is. That said,
I do wonder if it also goes back to the point that you made earlier that it
could be ideological, but also experiential. But the folks on the bottom
also recognize what it is to be in need and they know people who are in
need. And so, they need they give because they know what need looks like.

AUSTIN: Absolutely. Several years ago, when FEMA was funding for food
supports was at risk and food pantries across this country were seeing a
growth in the number of people coming and accessing, you know, middle
income people who had lost their jobs, looking for food. One of the things
I noted when I was reaching out to the community was that people who were
accessing the food pantries were often taking food out of their bags to
spread it among others, because they knew there wasn`t enough food.

That sense of collective responsibility, as opposed to personal
responsibility. So it is ideology, but it is experiential. It`s like, I
know what it means to go to bed hungry. I`m going to help somebody else.


PALMER: But it`s not just rich versus poor in that kind of way. All of
the studies show that when rich people are exposed to the needs of the
poor, they give more. So people who live in cities, for example, at every
income level, are very generous compared to those who live in the gated
communities, because they`re seeing what`s going on in the city.

So, I think it`s probably not quite right to say it`s all about ideology.
Some of it is about knowledge, and that`s one of the things that nonprofit
organizations can do, is let people know what`s going on, bring them in,
help show them what`s going on and start that at a really early age.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, what are the most effective tools for doing that without
it becoming a sort of missionary impulse in the worst sense of what a
missionary impulse is, which is the I`m better than you and I have the
answers for you. But instead, in the sort of, we`re connected impulse.

PALMER: And we were talking during the break, community service programs
that a lot of children are doing these days really makes a giant
difference. And that`s a great age to expose people to charitable giving,
and that people really think about one another that way.

So, starting that and bringing people into the community, and that`s
something nonprofits can do. They can bring rich people on to their
boards. Let them know what`s going on. The more people know, the more
likely they`re able to give. The single biggest thing from rich people,
they don`t know where and don`t trust nonprofit organizations and don`t
want to waste their money. So, really, a lot of education, talking about
these issues is incredibly important.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. The other possibility is a progressive tax code.

But I just -- I appreciate all of you being here today, because it`s the
end of the year. And for a lot of people, they`re trying to stretch a
budget to get holiday items and a lot of people are trying to figure out,
have they given enough for the year to get their tax write-offs. And it
just occurs to me in that moment of split, it might be worth thinking about
how to access charity for good.

Thank you to Jennifer Jones Austin, to Stacy Palmer, to Igor Volsky, and to
Aurora Cepeda.

Up next, famed poet, activist, and one of my dream guests, Nikki Giovanni
is here in Nerdland. You do not want to miss that.

But first, before we go to break, a look at the final tribute to President
Nelson Mandela. The beloved South African leader was laid to rest today in
his childhood village after an emotion funeral ceremony attended by 4,500
people, including Britain`s Prince Charles and Oprah Winfrey.

The funeral marks an end to official memorials to the man credited with
ending apartheid rule in South Africa and inspiring the rule. But as the
country`s president told mourners, Mandela will live forever no our hearts
and hinds.


HARRIS-PERRY: From my baby days, at bedtime, my mother read poetry to me
until I drifted off to sleep. Often it was from Nikki Giovanni`s
collection, "Spin A Soft Black Song". While pledging my sorority in
college, I had to recite Giovanni`s ego tripping from heart. I am so hip
even my errors were correct.

Giovanni`s meter and rhyme have been the metronome giving rhythm to the
lives of generations. And today she is here in Nerdland.

Poet, activist, professor, Nikki Giovanni, has been held as a healer and a
national treasury. And she is the author of 28 books. Her latest,
"Chasing Utopia," features remembrances of her childhood, family, and some
pretty amazing metaphors around food.

I am thrilled to welcome Nikki Giovanni to the table this morning.

Good morning.

NIKKI GIOVANNI, CHASING UTOPIA: Thank you so much. Good morning.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, I spent a lot of time with the book and just adored it.
And sort of just want to ask you a few things about it.

On the very first page, this very simple set of sentences. "I was sad when
mommy died, then six weeks later, Gary died, then my Aunt Ann. I tried to
find a way to bring them back."


HARRIS-PERRY: That`s what "Chasing Utopia" is?

GIOVANNI: Well, my mother drank a beer every day, I didn`t know my mother
at all, of course, until she was 26 and had me, so I only knew her as an
adult. But it came into my consciousness, every day I knew mommy and she
drank a beer. And beer is good for you, you know, it`s a liquid and keeps
you flowing and those sort of things.

And when she died, I had a lot to do, as you can see, because there was a
series of really sad things. And I laugh at myself, but I`m a responsible
person. So I got done what had to get done, and then I did what Americans
do not do, which is mourn. I just say, I`m just going to accept it. I
have a dog and Alex and I went out on the deck and I think the term would
be, I overdrank, because I`d start with chardonnay in the morning and
switch to red.

And it finally got to the point, one day, maybe the tenth, eleventh day I`m
doing this, you know how your dog -- you can do a lot of things in life,
but you cannot embarrass your dog.

HARRIS-PERRY: No, you cannot, thank goodness, you cannot.

GIOVANNI: So Alex is looking at me and thinking, again? And I was like,
OK, Alex, you`re right. It`s time for me -- you know, not to move on or
forget, but make a change.

But since mommy drank a beer, I said to Alex, why don`t we drink a beer for
the old girl? So, I decided to that. I don`t really like beer. And so I
said, if I`m going to drink a beer, I`m going to drink the number one beer,
I`m just going to go for the best. So we went to the bookstore and found
the number one beer in the world, Utopia. It`s a Sam Adams.

So, that`s what started it because it`s $350 a pint. It`s incredibly
difficult to locate. So I started chasing, as it were, Utopia.



HARRIS-PERRY: There`s a moment where you were speaking of Dillard
University in New Orleans. We`ve just been talking about philanthropy, and
in the text, you say, that the Katrina era was the only time I had wished I
was rich.

GIOVANNI: It`s true.


GIOVANNI: First of all, Marvalene Hughes, who was the president of
Dillard, is a friend. And the building that took the biggest hit of all
was the library at Dillard University. And I would have given anything to
just write a check for $1 million to rebuild it.

I couldn`t do that, but I did sit down to myself and say, what do you have,
Nikki, that you can make a difference? And so what I did was I pulled all
of my first editions, because I had duplicates, you know, I`ve known
everybody forever.

So -- well, it`s true. I had like 1,100 duplicates, and I sent them down
to Marvalene, because the building had to be rebuilt. And I stored them
until she was ready, but I wanted her to know that this will be the

So, Dillard has a corner of their library now, it`s a Nikki Giovanni
collection, we sent the books down for them, they`re all first editions.
So, I`m really proud of that.

HARRIS-PERRY: I love this idea that you have known everybody forever.
That`s why I laughed out loud. I love that idea.

On page seven, you have a -- it`s fairly early in the text, and it is
podcast for bicycles. And I just wanted, sort of towards the end of that,
say, to read from this. But I grew up and learned, trust and love are
crafts we practice, are wheels we balance are lives on.

GIOVANNI: Bicycles we ride. That`s how we came to bicycles, was trust and
love, excuse me, trust and love, were the two things spinning. And you
have to connect them. So you have to find that.

And when you connect them, it`s a bicycle. But my mother used to pull that
thing on me, because a lot of this book, I said to a friend of mine, I had
dinner with her last night. If you could put this book in the water and
boil it, add a little salt, you`d be just drinking joy.

HARRIS-PERRY: It`s true.

GIOVANNI: It`s the most fun book in the world. But mama used to do that
thing with me, that I was a clumsy kid, I guess I was like any kid, and I
would fall. And mommy would be sitting wherever she was, and she`d say,
come here, Nikki, I`ll pick you up. And all of my life, I`d be a sucker
for that.

And she would do it, and then I would think that I had done so, and she`d
give me a kiss, like, mommy picked me up. No, she made me get up myself.

HARRIS-PERRY: But by calling you, by calling you to the trust and the
love. One last moment before you`ll do an amazing thing, which is to read
your poetry, but one last question, you were at Virginia Tech when the
shooting happened. We are marred again this week by a school shooting.

Trust and love, these things that make our bicycle, that are the things
that we are practicing. How do we it in our collective life when it keeps
getting marred by this kind of violence?

GIOVANNI: We have to have some leadership and we have not. And one of my
really sad thoughts is that Obama was elected president -- the system we
have is that the president is the president of all of the people. So you
don`t have to try that.

You have to lead the people who equity willed you to lead. And the
majority of people elected him lead. And we have not had leadership in any
of the important social areas that needed to be dealt with.

Some things you can`t things you can`t compromise on. And gun control
would be certainly one of them. It`s just a bad idea.

There is nothing in the Second Amendment -- I`m not a lawyer. I`m a poet.
That says every fool has to have a gun. It`s just not there.

So, you know, I think we need strong leadership because everybody is not
going to like it. It`s not the way. I would love it if everybody was had
a t-shirt on that said, we love Nikki, but it would worry me, though,
because I`m a worrisome person.

HARRIS-PERRY: And there`s something -- one should worry if everyone loves
you, because it means you`re not challenging anyone.

GIOVANNI: You`re not doing anything.

HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with us. You will do something to make my year. This
is my early Christmas present when we come back. Nikki Giovanni is going
to be "Ego-Tripping".


HARRIS-PERRY: I mentioned earlier that I had to recite Nikki Giovanni`s
"Ego Tripping" by heart when I pledged my sorority in college. Today, it
gives me great pleasure to hear the poet herself from her.

GIOVANNI: I GIOVANNI: I was born in the Congo. I walked to the fertile
crescent and built
the Sphinx, I designed a pyramid so tough that a star that only glows every
one hundred years falls into the center giving divine perfect light, I am

I sat on the throne, drinking nectar with Allah, I got hot and sent an ice
age to Europe to cool my thirst. My oldest daughter is Nefertiti, the
tears from my birth pains created the Nile, I am a beautiful woman.

I gazed on the forest and burned out the Sahara Desert, with a packet of
goat`s meat and a change of clothes, I crossed it in two hours. I am a
gazelle so swift, so swift you can`t catch me.

For a birthday present when he was three, I gave my son Hannibal, an
elephant. He gave me Rome for Mother`s Day. My strength flows ever on.

My son Noah built New/ark and I stood proudly at the helm as we sailed on a
soft summer day. I turned myself into myself and was Jesus, men intone my
loving name. All praises, all praises, I am the one who would save.

I sowed diamonds in my back yard. My bowels deliver uranium, the filings
from my fingernails are semi-precious jewels.

On a trip north, I caught a cold and blew my nose, giving oil to the Arab
world. I am so hip, even my errors are correct. I sailed west to reach
east and had to round off, the earth as I went. The hair from my head
thinned and gold was laid across three continents.

I am so perfect, so divine, so ethereal, so surreal, I cannot be
comprehended except by my permission. I mean, I can fly, like a bird in
the sky.

HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, hearing you. Oh, thank you.

GIOVANNI: Thank you.

HARRIS-PERRY: That poem for so many of us as young women, in our 20s
reciting that and saying I turned myself into myself, and I was Jesus.
What is it about poetry that gives us a special way of being human?

GIOVANNI: Poetry loves us. It`s unconditional -- stopping by the woods on
a snowy evening. You know, it doesn`t matter. Boats sail on the river,
ships on the seas but the clouds sail across the skies. Poetry loves us.

HARRIS-PERRY: Poetry, indeed, loves us. We love your poetry.

That is our show for today. Thank you at home for watching.

Special thanks to Nikki Giovanni for the holiday season gift.

And now, it`s for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT." Hi, Alex.


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